Happy 2,576th Birthday Buddha!

Buddha has shown up in temples, picture frames, rocks, and on mountains quite a lot in my travels around the Far East. His eyes are usually shut and he looks like he might be sleeping; he seems like a pretty chilled out dude to be honest.

I think its pretty clear that I’m not a Buddhist (nor am I much of anything really), though I do like a few of his ideas and have learnt a little about the guy.

Siddhartha Gautama, the man whose ideas formed Buddhism, was born to an Indian royal family around 563BCE. The official story has him leaving the royal life behind at the age of 29 to seek enlightenment by becoming a beggar.

Living off the alms of strangers, his travels took him all over India. He eventually sat under a Bodhi tree for several months contemplating life, the meaning and all that. This was where he is said to have attained enlightenment.

Buddha is often confused with this jolly fat guy: The Laughing Buddha. You see; a Buddha is a person that has attained enlightenment. Siddhartha was the first person to do so.

This guy, confusingly named Budai, was a chinese Buddhist monk who wandered around China in the 900CEs eating, boozing, and generally cavorting about, before becoming an enlightened one himself: A Buddha (not the Buddha).

For most in the west this symbol represents pure hatred. Who knows why Hitler decided to use it as a symbol for the Nazis or why white power groups continue to use it today, but we probably shouldn’t concern ourselves with what those ignorant wankers think. The Svastika is actually an ancient symbol used in many of the faiths and religions in the East. You’ll see it a lot in the Buddhist temples out this way.

Buddhist temples in South Korea are fully decked out in colourful lanterns come Buddha’s Birthday (부처님오신날)

The guy gets around! I’m not entirely sure who / what these guys are, but I stumbled upon them in Hakone, Japan.

Looking slightly grumpy here.

You’ll find rocks stacked up on one other like this all around temples and mountains in Korea. Add a rock and pray for the health / good fortune for someone near and dear to you.

Happy Birthday Buddha!

All photos by Ben Cowles